Lower social class (or socioeconomic status) is associated with fewer resources, greater exposure to threat, and a reduced sense of personal control. Given these life circumstances, one might expect lower-class individuals to engage in less prosocial behavior, prioritizing self-interest over the welfare of others. We hypothesized, by contrast, that lower-class individuals orient to the welfare of others as a means to adapt to their more hostile environments, and that this orientation gives rise to greater prosocial behavior. Across four studies, lower-class individuals proved to be more generous (Study 1), charitable (Study 2), trusting (Study 3), and helpful (Study 4) compared to their upper-class counterparts. Mediator and moderator data showed that lower-class individuals acted in more prosocial fashion due to a greater commitment to egalitarian values and feelings of compassion. Implications for social class, prosocial behavior, and economic inequality are discussed.
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